Altmetric Blog

Horizon Europe: Preparing your dissemination and exploitation strategy

Ben McLeish, 30th November 2021

Being able to evidence where, when and how your research has been shared and discussed is crucial to Horizon Europe projects. Altmetric can help you evidence the reach and influence of your research, but in addition, you will need to formulate an executable dissemination and exploitation strategy. In this blog post, we share some tips and tricks to help get your work out there. 

In preceding programs, particularly Horizon 2020, researchers were encouraged to have a dissemination plan for their research. This mostly consisted of making publications Open Access, and networking with other researchers who might benefit from your research, or approaching investors or other institutions to leverage the results of research. In the age of the internet, this sounds easy. However it is not. 

Gathering evidence of engagement with research within the wider public is explicitly requested by the Horizon Europe program, but according to various officials within the EU, the level of dissemination and research sharing has remained at a low and unsatisfactory level. 

Specialist advisors to researchers such as Sean McCarthy have often reported that the impact and dissemination/exploitation part of a research proposal is consistently referred to as “the blah blah section” or “the boring section” by researchers. The real work, the real importance, it is said, is on the scientific portion of the proposal, and anything concerning promotion of the work outside of the research community is secondary, or worse, irrelevant. 

For Horizon Europe; should the impact, dissemination and exploitation plan of any proposal not contain a good and executable strategy and sufficient detail, it will cause a funding application to be rejected after submission. 

In order to improve the success of such applications, here are the steps you should take as soon as possible.

  • Familiarise yourself with the research infrastructure that the EU has put in place for the research community 

Horizon Europe comes with various software platforms for hosting, visualising, making available and tracking research outputs. The European Open Science Cloud, CORDIS, and the Horizon Results Booster will already be familiar to you as a Horizon Europe funding applicant. All of these systems will encourage effective networking between different researchers, who can leverage, access and make further use of the results of your project.

However, these systems will not effectively engage the general public; they are designed to be researcher facing, and will not be where global attention to research by non-researchers occurs. Therefore, the following additional steps are highly recommended.

  • Start a Blog – and explain your work for non-specialists

Research groups that generate a lay narrative for their work, describing each finding, increase their chances of news organisations, other science-based blogs and the general public finding, sharing and discussing the research, as well as understanding it. In order to make sure that attention and dissemination can be tracked for each distinct piece of research, it’s a good idea to create new entries for each new published item, and always link to where that item is hosted (usually a publisher’s webpage, or a data repository like Zenodo, figshare, etc.) 

Altmetric monitors thousands of blogs which disseminate and discuss research. So get in touch with us and tell us where your blog is. We will begin tracking your entries, and the research linked in those posts. 

Update your blog often, and if you add other supporting datasets or images from your research, make sure they are all hosted on services like figshare, which will attribute an identifier to those items as well. 

If your work includes creating leaflets, pamphlets or other paraphernalia, the same should apply – if you host these on research data platforms that mint identifiers for these items, they will be trackable in their re-use going forward. 

  • YouTube Video Explainers 

If you create explainer videos or supporting explanatory videos and host them on YouTube, link the research items you are talking about in the video description. Here’s an example of a YouTube video which has executed this in a way that Altmetric can track. 

As with blogs, get in touch with us and tell us about your YouTube channel, so we can follow it. The video views alone tell part of the story – the very existence of the videos themselves, and the work they cite in the descriptions, are an essential wireframe to demonstrate your dissemination strategy. 

Whether you opt for a single video for each new item, or if you decide to cover multiple pieces of research in a video is up to you. Altmetric can track many publications linked in the description field of a video. A link is all we need.

  • Use social media

According to what I’ve heard from our customers, and indeed from the European Commission’s own review findings linked above, this is going to be the most challenging part of the research communication process for the culture of researchers. Social media can be noisy, its metrics and stats are heavily skewed towards a gamified experience for its billions of users and it is only fairly recently that the research world has entered into the arena. However, the researcher user-base as well as its audience grows every year, as we can see in our own data. Here are some tips on using social platforms to communicate.

A key thing to remember when preparing to share a research output on social media, is to always make sure that the page you link your post to contains an identifier in the source code or metatags of the page. You can find more information on required metadata for Altmetric content tracking on our website. 

  1. Twitter is the undisputed dominant social platform for volume, user base and ease of use. If you are using a range of platforms, make Twitter at least one of those choices. Services like Altmetric can track across all public-facing users without you having to tell us about your account. If you were to create an account tomorrow, set it to public and share a research item that had just been published at that moment, we’d still pick it up within the 24 hour period following that tweet. 
  2. If you want to use Facebook, bear in mind that Altmetric only tracks public pages, and we have to deliberately follow those pages to begin with. No profiles, no individuals. Creating a public page that covers your project is actually a better strategy anyway, as you can foster discussion, amass a large following and essentially create a social media mirror of your blog. Be sure to link to the research items in your posts, and not simply re-share your blog entries. Altmetric tracks attention to research items, not to blog entries being reshared on other social platforms. And remember – tell us about your Facebook page once you’ve set it up. We’ll track it. Post fairly often, accompany your posts with an image, and always include the link to the research.
  3. Follow related projects, reshare relevant research which has made an appearance during your project’s lifetime and so on. A social network account that takes part in networking activities, rather than presenting a silo of purely self-focused attention has a stronger chance of flourishing. The result can be millions of eye-balls on research, far outweighing the natural audience of even the most popular academic journals. The general public now finds out about research as well, and social platforms as well as news sources are their portals for this. Therefore it’s critical to be comp-elling, engaging and accurate in your descriptions of your work. 
  4. Feel free to use shortlinking services. Many research groups will want to aggregate data and demographics on clicks. Altmetric tracks around 8,500 different vanity-link services. So if you want to use bit.ly, buff.ly or anything like that, we will STILL find where those links lead to research. You don’t have to use these, but we support their use without you having to do anything. Twitter already uses these by default (t.co), as does Facebook (fb.me). Some blogs employ them for site analytics – hence we’ve had to support these from day 1.

For more on the above, and a real-world example of a research group that used our attention data in Horizon 2020, watch our on-demand webinar where we covered the best practises for research groups in measuring the attention to research your work will receive. 

Visit our dedicated Horizon Europe webpage for more information about how Altmetric can help applicants. 

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